‘Tis the season for horror. It’s powered by a simple spring: A ghost or zombie or disembodied arm leaps out at you from the dark, and you scream. Then you laugh with relief. And then scream again.
But some theatre artists go far beyond this. They don’t just multiply shocks and surprises. They explore the inner depths where horror resides in us, and give it poetic form.
Urban Death “Tour of Terror” – at ZJU
This may be the smallest, lowest-budget Halloween scare event in all of LA. Don’t let that fool you. If you take your flashlight and walk in the door of this tiny NoHo storefront, you’ll never be quite the same again.
No track of moving cars here. No 10-foot-tall raptors. Just you and a companion or two, stumbling through a maze of blood-soaked plastic sheeting, with that cheap little … oh my god. What was that? And (scream!) what is THIS?
When you finish the maze, you’re in a black box where everything goes dark and you’re sure something’s out there. Somewhere. You’re right. One by one, moments flash before you — bloody, disturbing, titillating, cruel, funny, embarrassing … and then it’s over, and you have to do the maze again to get out. Only it’s a new one, with different surprises waiting for you.
You wish. The setting is simple, the props are things you could find in your kitchen or garage. But the “story,” the sequence of things you encounter, is not simple at all.
In “Tour of Terror,” what the actors bring you are also things you could find at home. On the dusty back shelf of your memory closet, or deep in the basement under the spider-webbed dirt. Your own emotions, and their baffling, confusing contradictions.
One moment, you’re recoiling in fear, like you would at any horror show. But the next moment, you feel empathy, you start to reach out and help that poor — but aaagh! It’s so disgusting! Then something easy, like a leering clown (well, easy for some of us). Then a naked person whose body stirs yours … but what’s that other person doing to them? Should I even be watching this? And why am I laughing?
On the 45-minute tour, you visit an array of your own sensations and feelings, with your thoughts racing to keep up. Like Pandora’s box pried open, you release the conflicts and guilts, the desires and disgusts, the lusts and the griefs, that lurk inside you.
Inside all of us. For this is a tour of the human heart and soul. And the terror isn’t out there, but inside — in the unconscious and half-conscious chambers, beneath the face we see each day in the mirror and present to the world.
Back out on the street, you’ll return your flashlight, laugh and share your laughter with others. You’re safe. But not really. You may not be able to recall what each of the performers did — but try as you might, you won’t forget what they showed you.
Urban Death “Tour of Terror”, created by the ensemble, directed by Zombie Joe and Jana Wimer.
Presented by Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group at ZJU Theatre, 4850 N. Lankershim Bvd., North Hollywood.
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30 pm, 9:15 pm, 10:00 pm, 10:45 pm, and 11:30 pm. Through November 1st.
The Ensemble: Charlotte Bjornbak, Jennifer Novak Chun, Gloria Galvan, David Wyn Harris, Ian Heath, Abel Horwitz, Amanda Kelly,
Jonica Patella, Tina Preston, Victoria Strafuss, Kevin Van Cott,
Tickets: <ZombieJoes.Tix.com> or (818) 202-4120.
Disclaimer: I have acted, written and directed with Zombie Joe’s for several years, and consider it my theatre home. But I had no part in creating or promoting Urban Death “Tour of Terror.”